There's no question that Enrique Iglesias ruled the 2011 Billboard Latin Music Awards. Not just because he opened with a romantic, soft and laser-lit performance of not one but two songs and then went on to win nine awards, including the top honor Artist of the Year and Latin Pop Album by a soloist -- but because he clearly had fun and entertained the audience as only he can.
Setting a standard for collegial generosity seen throughout the Thursday night (Apr. 28) ceremony at Miami's BankUnited Center, Iglesias thanked the artists with whom he's collaborated in the past couple of years, including Juan Luis Guerra, Wisin & Yandel (who joined him on "No Me Digas") and Pitbull (sadly absent from the performance of "Tonight I'm Loving You").
After beating giants like Marc Anthony and Shakira and new favorite Camila for Latin Pop Album of the Year, Iglesias thanked the fans. "My life has been filled with good moments and bad moments but there is one thing that has been constant and that's been the public," Iglesias said, then changed his tone. "We have to keep having babies so there can be more and more of us and, hopefully, one day, there will be there will be more Latins than anything. We are already almost there."
After the fourth award, he stopped his thank-yous in mid-sentence and ran into the audience, because it looked more fun. "What's happening over there? Yo voy pa' alla," he said, and thrusting an award in each hand, he went around the venue high-fiving, hugging and cheek-kissing colleagues and fans who were hooting and hollering and applauding.
"He is really celebrating his public," said one of the presenters, who were stood slack-jawed after being abandoned onstage.
Camila and Aventura -- bands that share a facility with harmony as well as a slew of nominations - were other big winners of the night. Aventura's members (minus frontman Anthony "Romeo" Santos, who was filming a video in California that could not be rescheduled) seemed surprised by every one of their three awards. "I don't have words," said one of the other Santos. "Now, Romeo is really going to get mad that he's not here."
"Romeo really missed it," said another bandmember, before giving a nod to other urban bachateros nominated, a list led by newcomer Prince Royce, who took home four awards. "We are still together after 15 years and we give a shout-out to the new generation of bachata… Bachata worldwide! Let's keep it going."
Mexican rock trio Camila took home three awards and left behind a poignant performance that ended with an angel descending on Mario Domm's piano. Samo dedicated a prize "to the public who keeps us on our feet." And in a repeated reference to social media's power in the music industry, guitarist Pablo Hurtado thanked the fans, especially those on Facebook and Twitter.
Indeed, social media got a lot of play, as one presenter texted onstage and Don Omar, who has 4.7 million likes on his facebook page and participated in a panel about his "big vast social network" at the Billboard Latin Music Conference earlier this week, won Latin Social Artist of the Year.
Don Omar also gave one of the best performances of the night with the hit song "Danza Kudura," a collaboration with Lucenzo that gained him the Latin Rhythm Airplay Song of the Year. But consummate entertainer Gloria Trevi -- who came out on a motorcycle with her dancers looking like a biker gang of futuristic strippers -- gave a rousing performance of her new hit, "Me Río de Ti."
Other notable performances included Marc Anthony's impassioned ballad and Mexican actress and songstress Lucero, who seemed to channel a Latina Britney Spears with her clothes, fast tempo and careful choreography, and the grand finale that put Jencarlos Canela, Pitbull and T-Pain together in a seamless trio of songs that got thousands at the BankUnited Center jumping onto their feet.
Emmanuel got a standing ovation when he went to take the lifetime achievement award. He thanked God for giving him the talent "that all of us have here, all of us who can sing and transmit, but this gift becomes a responsibility. You are an example for better or for worse, for the young and all who come after you."
Another honor, the Spirit of Hope Award, was given to Gloria Estefan, who was assisted down the stairs by her husband and longtime musical partner Emilio Estefan, for her work with organizations like Unicef, the Miami Fund to Cure Paralysis, Save the Chidren and concerts for relief aid, like the Haiti earthquake relief concert she led last year.
"Gloria Estefan was the first Latin woman to have a crossover and have a global impact," Ricky Martin said in a recorded mini documentary.
"Through her generosity, the nobility of her spirit, she has helped people in many countries. Also where there is persecution and injustice, she is there," Martin said, as the video showed Estefan singing for the Pope and asking him to pray for the freedom of the people in Cuba.
Cuba was also in the house when Aylin Mujica, a Cuban-born actress who lives in Mexico, sang a few strands of Celia Cruz's "Quimbara Kumbara," which brought the house down when it was performed b the Celia Cruz All Stars at the conference's emerging artists showcase Tuesday night.